Military courts in Egypt continue to try civilians including female minors and women from the opposition because of the political affiliations in an unprecedented phenomenon witnessed in Egypt's history. The increasing number of civilians referred to military court comes in the wake of the new decree issued allowing state prosecutors to refer any crimes to their military counterparts.
The law was issued following the June 30 events in 2013 and was amended allowing military tribunals to try civilians. The new decree, Law 136 of 2014 for the Securing and Protection of Public and Vital Facilities, states that the armed forces “shall offer assistance to the police and fully coordinate with them in securing and protecting public and vital facilities,” along with military area including electricity stations, gas pipelines, oil wells, railroads, road networks, bridges, and any similar state-owned property. This allows civilians to be tried despite lack of evidence in front of military courts where harsh sentences are normally issued.
According to article 14 such tribunals are a violation to the international political and civil convention ratified by Egypt. The article cites all persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
Human Rights Monitor has been able to follow the latest military trial known in the media as the Beni Suef trial number 96 for 2015 at the Military West Cairo Court after it was referred on May 25. One hundred detainees are included in the case along with 158 others who remain absent and have not been arrested so far. The case was registered as number 4570 for 2013 on August 20, 2013.
The first hearing took place at the Haikstep military Court on Monday May 25 and was postponed to June 1st. Two hundred and fifty-eight defendants are included in the case including 6 former members of the upper and lower house parliaments. Three minor high school students are also among the defendants along with teachers, professors, doctors and engineers. The defendants have been accused of killing officers, burning public institutions and police stations along with a host of other accusations.
The hearing takes place in front of the same court which ordered the death penalty to 7 civilians in the Arab Sharkas case last August despite being arrested up to 4 months before the crime which they were accused of took place. The court insisted on issuing the death sentence which was carried out on 6 of the defendants on May 17.
In addition to referring the civilians to military court they faced other violations during their detention including physical and emotional torture, electrocution and were denied personal belongings, food and medication. Visiting rights were also limited to only a few minutes weekly.
The Fayoum Prison administration denied medication and treatment to the critically injured and ill detainees. One Salah Metwalli who suffers from liver disease and diabetes is among the detainees deprived of care he has fallen into a coma and no medical care has been offered nor was he moved to hospital.
The detainees began a sit in and refused to enter their cells on May 20 after they were transferred in overcrowded police vehicles and left there for up to nine hours at a time. They also engaged in an open ended hunger strike which lasted two weeks on March 28, 2014 because of the ill treatment and inhumane conditions of detention centres.
For its part, HRM calls on the Egyptian authorities to stop referring civilians to military court on the grounds of their political affiliations. It also urges civilians' hearings to take place in front of the appropriate courts guaranteeing integrity, justice and transparency of the hearings.